As science fiction becomes reality

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are making great strides. Few would doubt that a driverless car will be readily available in the not-too-distant future. Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) are already commonplace and their military use raises issues of morality and security that have new dimensions. Machine-assisted elder care is common in Japan and soon will be as common in Canada. Connected devices will automate everything from cooking to laundry to entertainment.  Beyond this are the changes in the workplace that the new automation and robotics will bring. Although the full impact of robots is still some years in the future, the potential impacts and proper adjustments must start now.
Consider who may benefit from the increased use of robots. Certainly elders; increased machine-assisted care will reduce the costs and demands on
caregivers and there are strong indications that the care provided will be as good or even better than that provided by humans. Some people will certainly
benefit from the greater role of robots in the workforce, but without proper planning and social adjustments, many will be the poorer. While opportunities for
benefits and profits will increase, there is the possibility that this increased wealth will be consecrated into the hands of a few controllers. The issue goes beyond education. Most of the tasks now requiring highly specialized human intelligence in medicine, engineering, management, finance and education will be replaced by AI multi-purpose integrated machines. 
The meaning, purpose and challenge that many get from their work will be shifted or removed.  Humans will have the opportunities and problems of new relationships with machines. What humans now see as work will be reduced to less than thirty hours per week, but earnings will have to be sufficient to
provide financial security. Economies will have to be structured to distribute the wealth obtained from automation to all in proportion to basic needs and fair
recompense. Humans will have to learn to find purpose in “knowledge for knowledge’s sake” and not just for financial advantage.
Many of the changes will not come into full effect for our generation. However, if the subject is ignored, the results will be catastrophic. We are at a turning point. What was once science fiction is rapidly becoming reality. Although all the detailed effects of the full automation of society cannot be determined in advance, history, science, and current experience does indicate the potential issues that need to be addressed. Our concepts of purpose and method of education must be revised. More fundamentally, our very sense of society and culture needs deeper understanding.  We need to move to a moral economy that recognizes the inestimable value of the human being.